It was a particularly cheery day for millions of people in Burundi. The air was festive as pregnant women, new mothers and young children made the long trek from their homes to the clinics.
It was the last day of Burundi’s national health campaign, a yearly project initiated by the country’s Ministry of Health and supported by Food for the Hungry (FH).
During this three-day event, every participating health center across the country burst at the seams as hundreds of women and their children journeyed to their nearest clinic to receive vitamins, immunizations and deworming tablets. Last year, FH worked with the government to give deworming medicine to approximately 3 million children.
Mothers also received instructions on proper hand washing, breastfeeding and food preparation.
Burundi is a small country in the Great Lakes region of east Africa. It is slowly, but steadily, emerging from decades of ethnic conflicts that have shattered the country’s economy and unity.
Approximately 80 percent of Burundi’s population lives in poverty.
Infant and maternal mortality rates are among the worst in Africa.
Hence, the health campaign is a big step toward improving not only the maternal and child health in Burundi, but the long-term quality of life for its 10 million citizens.
As I journeyed with a team from FH to cover this event, I felt tired and hungry as it was way past noon. My team prepared to leave the clinic for yet another meeting.
As I trudged up a slippery slope near the clinic, I saw him—a young boy with gentle eyes. He looked like he’d witnessed a lot of pain. He couldn’t have been more than 6 years old.
He looked at me as he extended his left hand. In it was a half-eaten, boiled sweet potato. No words were necessary; he wanted me to have the rest of his lunch. I never felt more honored.
From America, I came to Burundi eager to serve and give. I felt good knowing we had what the poor needed to thrive – rich resources, medicines, technical knowledge.
Yet, at that moment, I was at the receiving end of a poor boy’s generous heart. I was the beneficiary of his sacrificial love.
As you continue to support the work of FH in Burundi and across the world, may we never forget that we, too, learn and receive from the kindness of countless nameless people. Let’s remember the value of everyone’s gifts, thoughts and ideas.
This is why community members always are included in creating plans to run their own development with FH. We depend on the Lord, you and them to find solutions to end to poverty.
Rez Gopez-Sindac is an Austin-based writer and editor covering faith, church management and global development.